On September 19, 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were driving along a road in rural New Hampshire when they were reportedly abducted by extraterrestrials. Four years later, on September 3, 1965, Norman Muscarello saw a UFO while hitchhiking near Exeter, NH, and reported it to police, which resulted in New Hampshire Police Officers Eugene Bertrand and David Hunt also observing the phenomenon. These are two of the most compelling and controversial cases in the annals of UFO encounters, and they are examined in the new documentary Strange Septembers: The Hill Abduction & The Exeter Encounter.
Written and directed by husband/wife filmmaking team Jeff and Jess Finn, Strange Septembers is a highly speculative documentary, mainly because both cases have been all but completely debunked by skeptics. Of course, that didn’t stop the Finns from finding plenty of people who were willing to go on record, some very convincingly, about what they believe is the truth about these incidents. Strange Septembers includes interviews with family and friends of the involved as well as input from respected ufologists (is that an oxymoron?). In a puzzling segment, there are also interviews with James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons, the actors who played the Hills in the 1975 television movie The UFO Incident: The Betty & Barney Hill Abduction that inspired Jeff Finn to pursue his documentary. Oh, and Strange Septembers is also narrated by RoboCop himself, Peter Weller, a curious move which either makes the movie more puzzling or more legitimate, depending on who you ask.
The vibe of Strange Septembers: The Hill Abduction & The Exeter Encounter is that of a seventies exploitation documentary that one would see on late night TV. The first third or so is all re-enactments of the incidents, simply presented but detailed in description – in one scene, a shadowy figure is superimposed over a UFO infested woodland, bending down onto one knee drawing a gun, miming out the actions while Officer Bertrand testifies as to what he did when he first made his sighting. The steam comes out of the latter part of the film, as the emphasis shifts away from the fun and corny stuff over to the talking head interviews and local news footage. But one thing is certain, whether the viewer is a believer in UFOs or not, the interview subjects definitely are, and they do their best to persuade the viewer.
If approached as the sensationalized documentary that it is, Strange Septembers: The Hill Abduction & The Exeter Encounter will entertain its audience in the same way that the old “In Search Of…” or “That’s Incredible” television series did. If approached as serious journalism, it’ll also entertain, but for the wrong reasons. Either way, there’s a very specific audience for Strange Septembers, one that knows who it is and knows what’s in store for it with this one. If that audience is you, then dig in.